Being a Female Lab Manager
Hours: 35-40 per week
Starting salary: Usually £30-35k (Manager level)
Qualifications required: GCSEs in English, Maths and Science required. Science A-Levels are preferred. Plus experience as a Lab Technician before progressing to Manager.
Gender diversity: According to Minnesota State University research in the US, 78% of Clinical Laboratory Technicians are women!
What's it like being a lab manager for the automotive industry?
Charlotte lives in Oxfordshire in the UK and has a daughter called Aurora, who is 2 years old which takes up most of her time! She enjoys gardening when the weather is good enough, swimming or going to see different types of animals like giraffes or miniature goats (Aurora's favourite!).
Job title: Laboratory Manager, Automotive
Current employer: Paintbox UK Ltd
Starting salary: £30-£35K for the Laboratory Manager. £15-£20K for a Laboratory Technician
Hours: Approx 40 per week
How long have you been practising in this field? 8 years.
Where are you based for work or which regions do you cover?
I am based in Banbury but also support our Birmingham site.
What’s it like being a Lab Manager?
The business I work for paints parts that go onto cars. My role is to make sure that the paint colour matches the other parts that go into or onto those cars. It's also to make sure that the paint stays on the allocated parts and does not peel off. The paint has to survive against the sun, rain, temperature changes, stones that hit the car when driving and many other factors, so we also check that the paint can withstand all of these things.
My role also supports analysis when we find visual faults on the car parts after we have painted them. We do this by using microscopes and chemical analysis. The other dimension to my role is being a manager. I have four people on my team and my role is to develop them, ensure that they are coping well and happy within their roles and working well as a team.
What does a typical day look like?
The day can be quite varied, we don't always know what will require analysis until a problems occurs, so we have to be flexible. We do have testing to carry out daily on production parts, and also for new projects that we are introducing so these need to be carried out in a methodical manner.
I'm often in meetings, so that my team has all of the information we need on the projects we're working on and so that we can problem-solve as a team. Some days I have to interact with customers by either going to their sites or by them coming to the office for a meeting. These can be quite interesting and sometimes difficult if the clients aren't happy!
Are there any specific qualifications you are required to have in your field?
Although it's quite a niche field, there isn't really a specific qualification for this role. It would usually be required that you should show some combination of education, training and experience. It definitely helps to have some science knowledge and to be the kind of person that has an eye for detail.
What did your career journey look like - how did you get to where you are today?
I originally wanted to go into Psychology so I studied that at university, it was in my second year of university that I realised I was more interested in Forensic Science so I did Forensic Psychology for my last year. I then did another course in Forensic Science after having a couple of years out of studying.
There was a Laboratory Technician role available in the business I was working in (where I still am today!), so I decided that the experience of working in a lab would be valuable to help me get into a Forensic Science job.
It turns out that the job here can actually be quite 'forensic-like' in many ways, so I really enjoyed it and didn't look back from there. I have since worked my way up to being the Laboratory Manager over the last 8 years.
Was there anything you liked doing at school that helped you get to this career?
My favourite subjects were maths, chemistry, biology, music and German. I think the science subjects probably helped with what I do now.
What did you want to be as a child when you 'grew up'?
I don't remember to be honest! As a teenager I knew I wanted to do something to help people which is why I chose Psychology for my degree at University.
Can you remember your parents or teachers wanting or encouraging you to go into a specific career when you 'grew up'?
I don't remember anyone suggesting a specific career for me, they were just supportive of the choices I made and helped guide me to get to where I wanted to go at that time. My parents have always been really supportive of my choices.
Is anyone ever surprised when you tell them what you do?
People are not usually surprised when I say I am a Laboratory Manager however once I start explaining that it is within the Automotive field then they tend to show a bit more surprise which quickly turns to interest!
What are the challenges and benefits of being a Lab Manager?
The biggest challenge is when we have new projects and the paint that we are trialling doesn't pass the testing criteria. We then have to problem-solve to try and get a paint system that will pass all of the rigorous testing. This usually has a tight deadline, which can be difficult, especially as some of the tests are quite lengthy and results are not instant.
What’s your favourite part of your job?
I love how varied the job is and that each day is different. It keeps the job interesting and I'm rarely bored. I love to be busy so it's a great fit.
What are 3 things you have to like to do your job?
Working as a team, having an analytical mind and being patient.
What advice would you give to young girls who are aspiring to be in your role, or who maybe haven't even considered it as a career?
Go, try it out and see if it is the job for you. I really thought I was just going to do this job for a bit of experience but 8 years later, I'm still here and I'm still loving it.